Security Watch

Keeping Track of patches and hacks in the IT security world.

Emancipation Holiday Causes Computers to Hiccup on Tax Day

It's not quite another Y2K, but some computers' failure to take into account the Washington-celebrated Emancipation Day 2007 may throw a monkey wrench into IRA contributions filed from those systems.

SANS Director Marcus Sachs pointed out the mix up, which affects some mutual fund companies, banks and other financial institutions that provide IRAs (Individual Retirement Accounts) in the United States.

Taxes are usually due April 15. This year, that date fell on a Sunday, which pushed the deadline to Monday, April 16. April 16, however, was Emancipation Day, which has been celebrated as a public holiday in the District of Columbia since Mayor Anthony Williams in 2005 signed legislation to that effect. The victory can be traced back to the work of Loretta Carter-Hanes, a D.C. local and literacy volunteer who spent years of research and lobbying to make sure the day was commemorated.

That made the new deadline April 17. Some computers and many printed tax forms weren't changed to accommodate the new date, however.

As SANS reports it, the customers of some banks and mutual fund companies who used a Web interface to make an IRA contribution were allowed to backdate the contribution, being permitted as they were to select 2006 for the year in which a deposit should be credited on that date. The back-end systems, however, were programmed to only allow 2007 contributions after midnight of the night before.

Making a 2006 contribution on Tuesday with a Web portal or other online service means a taxpayer could be credited for 2007, instead of 2006.

Emancipation Day is celebrated in many former slave-holding regions of the world to mark the day when they were freed. In the United States, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Compensated Emancipation Act for the release of slaves in the District of Columbia on April 16, 1862. His action freed some 3,100 slaves nine months before Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation—the precursor to slave emancipation throughout the United States.

As Wikipedia tells it, the District of Columbia Compensated Emancipation Act "represents the only example of compensation by the federal government to former owners of emancipated slaves."

The holiday will fall this way in the calendar again in April 2012. "Let's see if the computers get the word," Sachs said.